An Israel-Europe gas pipeline deal elevates Israel to the status of a major Mediterranean energy exporter. However, critics suggest the move is about more than mere economics, and serves a number of greater geopolitical objectives – namely, immunizing Israel from criticism and sanctions, and damaging relations between Europe and Russia further.
Ministers from Israel, Greece, Italy and Cyprus, as well as the European Union Commissioner for Climate Action and Energy, signed a joint declaration in April, codifying a commitment to constructing a gas pipeline that will bring newly discovered natural gas in Israel [sic] to Europe.
The pipeline, described by Israeli Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz as “the longest and deepest subsea gas pipeline in the world,” is expected to be in operation by 2025.
Designated as a “project of common interest” by the EU, the pipeline has been marketed by both sides as an ideal alternative to the bloc’s continuing dependence on Russian energy — an overt indication the deal is being pursued for political rather than economic purposes. After all, high infrastructure costs coupled with low gas prices will almost by definition make it considerably dearer than the existing energy relationship between Russia and Europe.
The Atlantic Council Global Energy Center has even suggested the proposed project may never come to fruition, once the commercial difficulties inherent in making it operational become reality. Current European energy demands in no way commercially justify an additional gas supply source for the continent.
Furthermore, independent Palestinian human rights advocacy group Al-Haq has said the pipeline agreement will benefit corporations which directly profit from the occupation of Palestine — incentivizing Israel to maintain its current policy of illegal settlement expansion and its blockade of Gaza. If constructed, the pipeline will pump gas from Israel’s giant Leviathan field, the discovery of which in 2010 transformed Israel from a net importer of energy into a potential regional energy player — the field is estimated to hold around 20 trillion cubic feet of gas. Despite Lebanon arguing Leviathan sits partially in Lebanese waters, Israel has pushed ahead with international deals, selling 39.7 percent to US-based Noble Energy.
In March, Jordan became the first country to sign up for Leviathan gas. The move ignited waves of protest, on the basis the agreement would increase Jordan’s dependency on Israel, and potentially finance Israel’s occupation of Palestine.
Such concerns go beyond reflexive prejudice. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has noted the potential of gas deals to insulate the country from international condemnation and action.
“Ensuring the supply of gas is essential not only to the country’s functioning, but also to its existence. I regard the gas supply as a foundation of national security. A country that exports things crucial for other countries has far more power. The ability to export gas makes us more immune to international pressure. We don’t want to be vulnerable to boycotts,” Netanyahu said.
Moreover, in a report, Annexing Energy, Al-Haq noted it was “impossible” to geographically isolate gas fields in mainland Israel and characterize them as separate from the country’s ongoing conflict with Palestine.
“In 2011, Noble Energy, the lead operator of the Leviathan field, unilaterally extracted gas from a joint Palestinian gas field without Palestinian permission as required under customary international law and the Oslo Accords. Israel has also employed a brutal and unlawful naval operation to protect Noble Energy’s gas platforms beside the Gaza Strip, routinely attacking, killing and injuring civilian Palestinian fishermen who fish in the vicinity of Israel’s illegally imposed six-nautical-mile closure of Palestine’s territorial waters,” the report said.
In a perverse twist, the deal also comes at a time when Gaza continues to reel from a major energy crisis, which has seen power cuts lasting as long as 18 hours, and results from Israel blocking the region from developing its own resources.
The Al-Haq report concluded that if Palestinians were permitted to do so, their own energy needs would be satiated, and they would be economically self-sufficient, freed from their current aid dependency.
TOKYO – Local residents of Kadena on Okinawa’s main island said the United States military conducting parachute training drills over Okinawa’s mainland on Monday morning was completely unacceptable with the latest provocation coming amid rising anti-U.S. military sentiment on the island.
Local media reported that residents in the area still remember a tragic incident that occurred in 1965 involving an elementary schoolgirl being crushed to death by a trailer being parachuted down to a village during such a drill.
The area hasn’t seen parachute drills by the U.S. military since a drill at the base in 2011, that saw 30 personnel deploy from a MC-130 special mission aircraft, official accounts showed.
The aircraft used to deploy the airmen are designed for infiltration and exfiltration missions and can also be used for resupply of special operation forces.
The large transporter-looking planes can also be configured to be used for air refueling of primarily special operation helicopters and tilt-rotor aircraft like the controversial Osprey, also hosted in Okinawa and mainland Japan, and the cause of great condemnation here for its checkered safety record.
The latest drill saw the local residents notified of the parachute exercise less than a day before it occurred, when notice was sent out on Sunday night by the Japanese Defense Ministry.
In 1996, Japan and the U.S. agreed that it would [only] be the Island near Okinawa’s main island that would be used for parachuting drills at a reserve airfield there, with the surprise drill over Kadena baffling and scaring residents in the area.
The town of Kadena plays host to the U.S. Kadena Air Base which itself is home to top multiple air squadrons and accommodates around 20,000 service-members, their families and employees living or working there.
Anti U.S. base sentiment in Japan’s southernmost prefecture continues to rise of late, with regular demonstrations comprising thousands of locals calling for the controversial U.S. Marines Corps Futenma base to be relocated off the island and not to the coastal Henoko region.
At the end of last month, the “prefectural people’s rally calling for immediate cancellation of unlawful land reclamation work and abandonment of the plan to build a new base in Henoko, organized by the All Okinawa Coalition to Prevent Construction of a New Base in Henoko, was held in front of the gate to the U.S. military’s Camp Schwab.
The demonstration saw the participation of around 3,500 people, the organizers said.
Okinawa Governor Takeshi Onaga attended the rally and stated that with all his strength he would absolutely revoke the approval to reclaim land off the shore of Henoko, which is needed build the new base.
Along with the unexpected parachute drill and constant anti-relocation rallies, residents have also been up in arms recently about stray bullets found at the Afuso Dam construction site in the Camp Hansen Marine Corps base on the island.
The base is located in the town of Kin, near the northern shore of Kin Bay, and is the second-northernmost major installation on Okinawa, with Camp Schwab to the north.
Damage from stray bullets was found in water tanks and the cars of dam workers, local media reported, with fears rife that if live rounds were fired and people were in the vicinity at the time, multiple lives could certainly have been lost.
“Stray bullet damage from Camp Hansen has occurred countless times since the end of WWII. It is obvious that this originates from the proximity of Okinawan residents and the base. The practice of live-fire exercises on the narrow island of Okinawa is a mistake,” a recent article from an Okinawa-based publication said on the matter.
“The Marines, who operate Camp Hansen and use it mainly for exercises, are inherently unnecessary in Okinawa. Considering the safety of Okinawan residents, the only option is for the Marines to return to the continental United States. If they truly need to conduct live-fire exercises, they would be better off conducting them on the expansive training grounds in the mainland United States,” the article said.
Officials from Onna, Okinawa, as well as the Okinawa Defense Bureau, both confirmed that water tanks at the construction site were found empty on April 6 and what appeared to be bullet holes were found inside the tanks.
On April 13, similar damage from bullets was found on the cars of workers who had parked at the construction site, much to the continued consternation of local residents.
The local Okinawan residents’ calls for an end to their “occupation” and for all U.S. military personnel to return to the continental U.S. are growing evermore vociferous.
US-instigated and propelled wars have continued to rage for 15 years in fulfillment of influential neoconservative ideologue Michael Ledeen’s envisioned “creative destruction” through “total war.” General Wesley Clark related the Bush administration’s intention, reported by a Pentagon friend, to “take out” seven countries: Iran plus six Middle Eastern and North African Arab countries – all of which happened to be unfriendly to Israel. Egypt and Jordan, which had peace treaties with Israel, were not on the list. Nor was oil a common denominator. The list included Lebanon, of interest only to Israel, not Exxon, and did not include the oil-saturated Gulf states that collaborate with Israel despite lip service paid the Palestinians. This agenda fits Israel’s long-term strategic game plan recounted in 1982 by Israeli Foreign Service senior official and Jerusalem Post journalist Oded Yinon to control the Arab world by shattering its countries into sectarian political shards emasculated as nations. As John Pilger titled two documentary films 25 years apart, “Palestine is Still the Issue” – the ever-bleeding heart of the Middle East.
The imperial monster behind this agenda is clearly non-partisan. Like the bullfight picadors weakening the bull in preparation for the matador, Bill Clinton had prepared Iraq for easy takedown with eight years of suffocating sanctions that killed an estimated half-million children. Obama/Clinton followed Bush with the wholesale destruction of Libya, a secular, socialist, well-developed nation with the highest human development index in Africa, and using weapons looted from Gaddafi’s arsenal, launched the Syrian war in collusion with the Saudis, Qatar, Turkey and Israel, each with its own motives, none of which Americans should support. However rationalized as oil-driven, currency-protecting or strategic moves on the global chessboard, the monumental financial, moral and societal costs of these wars vastly exceed any benefits, real or imagined. Without the regional conflicts long caused by Israel and relentless pressure and political extortion by the Israel lobby, most or all of these terrible debacles might well have been avoided.
But change – perhaps revolutionary change – seems in the air. Israel no longer exerts automatic mastery of her neighbors and the US government. As Gideon Levy titled his 2014 Haaretz article, “The World Is Sick of Israel and Its Insanities.”
Israel failed to prevent the Palestinian Authority from filing war crimes evidence with the International Criminal Court. The Israel lobby failed to stampede the US into attacking Syria. It failed to derail the nuclear negotiations with Iran. After an unbroken 44-veto win streak, it failed to strong-arm an American president into vetoing the 2016 UN Security Council resolution condemning settlements. It is desperately fighting a losing battle against the BDS movement despite mounting a full-court press in American universities, ecumenical faith communities, the mainstream media, and the academic and entertainment industries with its familiar, shrill accusations of “anti-Semitism” and dubious claims of indispensability to American “interests” and “shared values.” In an April 5, 2017 Portland, Oregon city council hearing to consider divestment from socially irresponsible corporations, a third of citizens testifying cited business practices enabling Israeli abuses of Palestinians as a divestment criterion. And on April 16, the reliably pro-Israel New York Times unexpectedly published an occupation-searing op-ed by Palestinian activist Marwan Barghouti, long-imprisoned in Israel for presumed complicity in three attacks that killed five people during the second intifada.
The Palestinian solidarity movement shows signs of burgeoning life, but with uncertain direction now that President Trump announced departure from 23 years of formal US insistence on the fraudulent two-state solution – “as long as both sides agree.” Agreement, of course, is the devil in substance as well as details. Palestinians have the rightful position under international law, but Israel has all the power in the relationship and has never come close to agreeing to anything remotely approaching justice. With Palestinians rendered helpless for 69 years, responsibility for justice falls by default upon “the international community.”
World opinion outside the US is not sanguine toward Israel. Not one among the four other permanent and 10 rotating UNSC members ever joined the US in those 44 UNSC votes. Israel is effectively a US protectorate clinging tenuously to its claims upon the American taxpayer to fund its occupation and its assurance of US protection in the UN from international justice, with a loose cannon in the White House inclined to unpredictable reactions when offended.
With pressure building and the impasse shaking loose, several possible developments are in play.
Trump’s ambiguity evoked immediate UN and Arab League declarations reaffirming a two-state solution as “the only way to achieve comprehensive and just settlement to the Palestinian cause.” But the long-stalled, tentative two-state “Geneva Initiative” blueprint developed through the interminable “peace process” – which largely ignored the refugee and diaspora population’s rights – is neither comprehensive nor just.
Israeli Education Minister Naftali Bennett, leader of the pro-settlement Jewish Home Party, is pushing Netanyahu to abandon the idea of a Palestinian state altogether, abandon restraints and annex a settlement of 40,000 population near Jerusalem for starters.
Hamas and Fatah continue to press for an independent state, anticipating that a single state by annexation would merely create “one state, two systems” continuing Israeli control without even a token pretense of PA administration.
J street also opposes this. Annexation would dismantle the myth of democracy Israel projects to the world. J Street president Jeremy Ben-Ami dreads the one-state model as “not a solution but a dissolution” since this would publicly formalize their apartheid system with a Jewish minority ruling over a Palestinian majority. He is right. But alternatively, were Israel to annex the Palestinian territories and provide constitutionally protected equal citizenship rights to all – which the Arab population would demand, supported by international pressure – this would end Israel as a self-definable “Jewish state.” The Jewish and Palestinian Arab populations of the combined areas are now approximately equal, and Palestinians exercising their right of return coupled with predictable exodus of Jews unwilling to live as equals with Palestinians will shift the demographic balance decisively.
With its collective identity embattled and its stability threatened by BDS, Israel is becoming increasingly desperate, arresting BDS founder Omar Barghouti, a non-citizen resident of Israel, for allegedly evading taxes on income from a Ramallah-based company for 10 years they hadn’t apparently noticed until now, and passing a law banning foreign nationals who support BDS from entry despite significant economic and public image risks. Most troubling to their control obsession, American Jews are no longer reliable Israel supporters. The recent annual AIPAC protest demonstration in Washington was the largest and most vociferous yet, conspicuously amplified by Jewish protesters.
Although this protest was Palestinian-organized with numerous well-known groups and figures, the media spotlight was captured by hundreds of young, spirited American Jews who made themselves newsworthy by blocking entrance to the convention center with a human chain and speaking with passion to the press, demanding freedom, equality, justice and dignity for Palestinians. The stated goal of their main organization, If Not Now, is “to end American Jewish support for the occupation.” Without unison on thorny related issues, their proximal focus is simply the intolerable here and now.
Logically and morally, Jewish voices deserve no special privilege. We all have the same duty to protect human rights. And almost all US taxpayers involuntarily supporting Israel are non-Jewish. But politically, American Jewish voices carry special weight in confronting AIPAC, ADL and 336 tax-exempt “Israel affinity organizations” depriving the US Treasury of tax revenues on $5-6 billion annually supplementing Israel’s current foreign aid allowance of over $3 billion. Anti-Zionist Jewish voices can dispel conflation of Palestine support with anti-Semitism and confer permission to the non-Jewish 97% to challenge Israel without fear of being so labeled. However imbalanced the media coverage of the protest, the size, energy and unequivocal repudiation of Israel by young American Jews may mark a turning point smoothing the path ahead for others.
However, the 2-edged sword here should not be overlooked. The largest, best-established Jewish organization challenging Israel is Jewish Voice for Peace. At the recent Portland hearing, six of 14 advocating divestment from companies enabling the abuse of Palestinians were JVP members. With annual budgets in the $3 million range, JVP is also the largest, best-financed organization within the Palestine Solidarity Movement, which provides it disproportionate visibility and influence. This influence is not without potential hazards.
JVP has endorsed strong positions including the BDS movement, which includes the right of return among its three bottom-line objectives. The right of return was declared by UN Resolution 194 in 1948, has been re-confirmed annually, and remains a yet-unfulfilled condition of Israel’s 1949 admission to the UN. This has been a major roadblock to conflict resolution. A 2009 survey by One Voice, an organization that tries to paper over conflicting goals to discover or manufacture appearances of Israeli/Palestinian agreement, nevertheless found the greatest disagreement on the right of return, with 95% of occupied Palestinians rating this, including compensation, as “essential” to a final resolution, an outcome rated “unacceptable” by 77% of Israelis.
Both JVP and upstart If Not Now are focused on ending the ugly occupation, a deformity on the face of Judaism. But what next? It is the Palestinians who for 69 years have suffered armed robbery, forced exile, political imprisonment, extrajudicial killing, continuous humiliation under apartheid within Israel, suffocating military occupation and blockade in their own land outside Israel, and who, as the oppressed people, have the inalienable right to determine the course and outcomes of their movement. The rights to redress and restitution belong to the victims and cannot as a matter of justice be parsed by the perpetrator or its friends. Full and fair justice for Palestinians will mean significantly restructuring Israel/Palestine. Will JVP be willing to go that far?
It is less a question of principles than of competing loyalties. Can people with personal, familial, cultural and/or financial stakes connected to Israel honestly follow the path to full justice? How many JVP members are potentially compromised by such ties? For example, JVP executive director Rebecca Vilkomerson’s husband, Jonathan Lebowitsch, is employed as a “solution architect” for an Israeli company, Check Point Software Technologies, founded by an IDF Intelligence Corps veteran. Imagining itself ever-threatened, Israel relies heavily on surveillance/security technology and would predictably intend to continue such intrusions to undermine Palestinian self-determination under any new political arrangement. What position would JVP take when faced with restoration of proportional Palestinian political power in historic Palestine with its transfiguring on-the-ground implications?
To be in solidarity as allies of an oppressed people, the rest of us including Jewish Americans must provide unequivocal support along whatever paths toward whatever goals of freedom, equality, justice and dignity under international law Palestinians themselves choose to seek, without efforts to steer them in other directions or toward lesser goals.
Whether within two genuinely equal states, a federation, or a unified single state with universal rights, this would not end the right of Jews to live there as their homeland but would end their current supremacy and privilege, just as the US is the homeland for people of many ethnicities and religions living (at least formally) in political equality. Israel could become a normal country rather than, as encouraged by IDF General Moshe Dayan, “like a mad dog, too dangerous to bother.” To be honest allies, I believe Jewish supporters of Palestinians must embrace this transformative vision.
Jack Dresser, Ph.D. is National vice-chair, Veterans for Peace working group on Palestine and the Middle East and Co-Director of Al-Nakba Awareness Project in Eugene, Oregon
Leader of Yemen’s Houthi Ansarullah movement, Abdul-Malik Badreddin al-Houthi, speaks during a televised speech in Sa’ada, on April 23, 2017.
Leader of Yemen’s Houthi Ansarullah movement, Abdul-Malik Badreddin al-Houthi, says the United States and the Israeli regime are two sides of the same coin and together they seek to destroy Yemen through a brutal military campaign launched by Saudi Arabia.
Addressing a group of Yemenis in Sa’ada, thorough a video conference, Houthi further said on Sunday that the US, Israel and their allies are trying to impose their values on regional nations, adding that enemies view Yemenis as a worthless tool to sustain their own interests in the region.
“Independent forces in the region from Yemen to Syria, Lebanon and Iraq are considered as rogue from the American perspective, and sympathy for the oppressed in these countries is viewed as a crime,” he said, adding that Washington is trying hard to turn regional players into its own puppets.
The Yemeni leader also noted that collusion in the atrocities committed against the Yemeni people is not an issue in the eyes of the American leaders, but when the oppressed and independent forces cooperate with each other, the US perceives it as a crime.
He called on all Yemenis to stand united against the aggressors and defend their country.
“[When] anyone says Israel is a threat to our nation, the United States and its allies say they are supporters of Iran, and with the help of this false justification, they (Washington and allies) target anyone that does not accept adopting a hostile attitude towards Iran,” he added.
He also said the only sin committed by Iran, from the perspective of the United States, was that it freed itself from being a puppet country in the 1979 Islamic Revolution.
‘US, Israel main source of terrorism worldwide’
The Yemeni leader added that Washington considers regional or international threats all those countries that are not its ally, “but the reality is that the US and Israel are themselves the main source of terrorism worldwide.”
Elsewhere in his remarks, Houthi said the Yemeni nation, from all walks of life, should boost their awareness of the realities of regional developments and use it as a tool to battle the US propaganda against the Arab country. Ignorance, he said, makes people an easy target for the US and the Zionists.
Houthi also stated that only Yemenis can decide about their future and the internal affairs of their country and that absolutely no other country or organization, even the United Nations and the Arab League, can impose their so-called solutions to the crisis in Yemen.
He described as utterly ridiculous Washington and Riyadh’s claim that they want to liberate Yemeni cities from “Yemeni occupation.”
“You are Yemenis, who have occupied the capital Sana’a? The US wants to liberate Sana’a from Yemenis?!” he asked.
Houthi reiterated that the Yemeni nation’s resistance against the Riyadh regime’s incessant attacks was deeply rooted in religious orders and was meant to safeguard national sovereignty and freedom.
Saudi Arabia launched its deadly campaign against Yemen in March 2015 to push back the Houthi Ansarullah fighters from Sana’a and to bring back to power Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi, Yemen’s president who has resigned and is a staunch ally of Riyadh.
The campaign, which lacks any international mandate and has faced increasing criticism, has claimed the lives of more than 12,000 people, most of them civilians.
Certain Arab countries, including the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Qatar, are partners to the military aggression.
A series of moves by NATO’s Istanbul Cooperation Initiative (ICI) partner, the United Arab Emirates, has many observers in the Indian Ocean littoral nations wondering out loud whether the «North Atlantic» military pact is moving into the Indian Ocean and Arabian Peninsula, courtesy of an «outsourcing» deal with the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) nations.
On January 27, while the world’s eyes were on the one-week old Donald Trump administration in Washington and believing that NATO would become a shell given Trump’s belief that it was «obsolete,» NATO’s Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg helped open the NATO-Istanbul Cooperation Initiative (ICI) Regional Center in Kuwait. Gathered with Stoltenberg for the opening ceremony were the Secretary General of the GCC, representatives of the 28 members of the North Atlantic Council, and government officials from host Kuwait, as well as Bahrain, the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Oman. The opening of a NATO facility in the Persian Gulf represented an unprecedented leap by the bloc designed for the defense of the «North Atlantic» into far-off waters in Asia.
The Kuwait operation followed the signing of an Individual Partnership and Cooperation Program (IPCP) between NATO and the UAE last October. The agreement is designed to bolster existing links between NATO and the UAE on NATO-led operations and missions and enhanced interoperability. The de facto admission of the UAE into NATO follows several major military forays by the seven-member Gulf federation into the Indian Ocean and Horn of Africa. There is a belief that NATO is now using the UAE to extend its military and political influence around the Indian Ocean and associated waters, including the Persian Gulf, Gulf of Aden, and Red Sea.
NATO already has a sizeable military footprint in the Gulf region and Indian Ocean. The U.S. Fifth Fleet is homeported in the Bahrain capital of Manama. Al-Udeid airbase in Qatar remains one of America’s largest outposts in the Middle East. The base serves as the forward headquarters of United States Central Command, the United States Air Forces Central Command, No. 83 Expeditionary Air Group British Royal Air Force, and the 379th Air Expeditionary Wing of the U.S. Air Force. The UAE has its fair share of NATO and NATO partner military bases, including the Royal Australian Air Force facility at Al-Minhad airbase south of Dubai, a U.S. Air Force facility at the Al-Dhafra airbase near Abu Dhabi, the port of Jebel Ali in Dubai, and a naval base in Fujairah in the Arabian Sea.
There are also U.S. military bases at the Ali Al Salem Airbase, Camp Arifjan, Camp Buehring, and the Kuwait City naval base in Kuwait; the Masirah and Thumrait airbases in Oman; the Isa airbase in Bahrain; Camp Lemonnier in Djibouti; Eskan Village, outside of Riyadh, Saudi Arabia; Manda Bay, Kenya; Victoria International Airport on Mahé Island in the Seychelles; the Baledogle airbase in Somalia; and the large Naval Support Facility at Diego Garcia in the British Indian Ocean Territory. The U.S. has shown an interest in developing a maritime surveillance facility on the Australian-ruled Cocos Islands in the eastern Indian Ocean. U.S. Special Operations personnel have been spotted in Zanzibar, from which the U.S. military was ousted in 1964. A six-acre seaside site, said to be the new U.S. embassy complex in the Sri Lankan capital of Colombo, is believed by locals to also serve as a military base.
Under the guise of supporting the GCC coalition battling against Houthi-led rebels in Yemen’s bloody civil war, the UAE has been on a real estate buying spree in the region. Chief among the UAE’s prized acquisitions is the strategic island of Socotra in the Gulf of Aden. Long-sought by the United States as a naval and intelligence base since the end of the Cold War, there are reports that the exiled Yemeni president, Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi, leased the islands of Socotra and Abd al-Kuri to the UAE in 2014, before fleeing to Saudi Arabia. Abd al-Kuri is a sparsely-inhabited island located 65 miles southwest of Socotra. Since the beginning of the Yemeni civil war, the UAE has taken advantage of the absence of a stable government in Yemen to expand its influence in Socotra. The UAE deal on Socotra was allegedly in return for the UAE’s support for Hadi and his Saudi allies in their military quest to wrest control of north Yemen from Iranian-backed Houthi rebels who seized control of the Yemeni capital of Sana’a.
Formerly a part of the Yemeni province of Hadhramaut, Socotra became a separate province in 2013. Before the former nation of South Yemen was granted independence by Britain, Socotra was a possession of the Mahra Sultanate of Qishn in Hadhramaut in the Protectorate of South Arabia. Hadi’s removal of Socotra from Hadhramaut control and his reported lease of the island to the UAE is not recognized by the pretender to the throne of the former Mahra Sultanate, Abdullah bin Isa. U.S. military operations in Yemen in support of the Saudi-led coalition is reportedly targeting Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), but increasingly it appears that the actual targets for American drones, missiles, and special operations forces are tribes loyal to former rulers like bin Isa, Houthi rebels, and South Yemen independence fighters.
A UAE airline, Rotana Jet, now provides direct air service between Abu Dhabi and Socotra. Air Yemenia provides direct service between Socotra and Dubai.
There is reason to believe that the UAE was fronting for the United States in acquiring the lease on Socotra and that it is only a matter of time before U.S. and NATO personnel arrive on the island, likely under the guise of the ICI-NATO partnership. Some reports claim the lease is for 99-years, which is noteworthy for being the same period of time that the U.S. leased the Guantanamo Bay naval base from a newly-independent Cuba. The U.S. has abrogated the Guantanamo lease terms by refusing to depart from the base upon the lease’s termination in 1999.
Abu Dhabi is the home to the private military company Reflex Responses (R2), which is run by Blackwater’s founder Erik Prince. Prince’s sister, Betsy DeVos, is the Secretary of Education in the Trump cabinet. Prince is reported to have provided consulting to the Trump transition team by sneaking into meetings through a back door at the Trump Tower in Manhattan.
Middle East observers see R2 as a CIA contrivance that farms out mercenaries from such countries as Colombia, South Africa, and Chile to fight as U.S. proxies in wars such as the civil war in Yemen. R2’s operational personnel are headquartered at the Zayed Military City UAE military base outside of Abu Dhabi. Prince and the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi jointly command some 1400 Colombians at the base whose officers are mainly American and British ex-military personnel.
The UAE has been engaged in further military real estate grabs in the Indian Ocean region. It recently signed an agreement with the unrecognized Republic of Somaliland to establish a major naval base at the port of Berbera on the Gulf of Aden.
In October 2015, UAE forces took control of the Yemeni island of Perim in the strategic Bab al-Mandab Strait between the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden. The island had been under the control of Yemeni Houthi rebel forces battling the Saudi puppet government of Yemen. The UAE president has built a massive vacation palace on Mahé island in the Seychelles, at what was once a U.S. Air Force listening station.
Saudi Arabia is reportedly buying Faafu Atoll in the Maldives. The «mega project» planned for the atoll by the Saudis may be a joint commercial/naval base. The Maldivian government denies it is selling Faafu to the Saudis, but did admit to the Saudi $10 billion mega project. Atoll inhabitants are worried about the Saudi deal. A protest by Faafu islanders against the Saudi deal has taken place on the main island of Bilehdhoo.
The U.S. and NATO enjoy access to French military bases in Mayotte, near Madagascar; the French island of Reunion; and the Kerguelen archipelago in the southern Indian Ocean, near Antarctica. France also maintains facilities in Abu Dhabi at the Al-Dhafra airbase; the Mina Zayed naval base, and a French Foreign Legion base 50 miles from the city of Abu Dhabi.
The United States and NATO are militarizing the Indian Ocean region as much as they have the North Atlantic and Mediterranean. NATO and its masters in Washington, now allied with ICI partners in the Persian Gulf, are intent on pushing the «Atlantic Alliance» far beyond the Atlantic Ocean and into Indian and Pacific Ocean waters. The question remains. To what end?
PARIS – The office of French far-right National Front presidential candidate Marine Le Pen is saddened that the United States appears to continue its interventionist policies under President Donald Trump and hopes that this will not stoke tensions around the world, the candidate’s campaign manager David Rachline told Sputnik.
“A hope for the end of the American interventionism after Trump’s victory seems to be weakened. It is deeply sad and damaging for peace and stability in the world, and we hope that what seems to be the considerations of the US domestic policy won’t be a factor of increased tensions in the world,” Rachline said commenting on the recent US strikes on an airfield in Syria.
On April 6, the United States launched 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles at the military airfield in Ash Sha’irat. Trump said that the attack was a response to the alleged chemical weapons use in Syria’s Idlib province on Tuesday, which resulted in the death of over 80 people. Damascus denied the government’s involvement, with Syrian President Bashar Assad telling Sputnik that the attack in Idlib may have been “a false flag play” to justify the airstrike.
Le Pen herself condemned April 6 strike the next day after it was carried out and three days later urged Trump to be cautious in Syria, as military intervention in both Iraq and Libya ended up bringing danger rather than peace to civilians.
Foreign Ministers, Sergei Lavrov (C) of Russia, Walid al-Muallem (L) of Syria and Mohammad Javad Zarif of Iran attend a news conference in Moscow © Grigory Sisoev / Sputnik
The US cruise missile attack on Syria was an act of international aggression, Russia, Syria and Iran have stated after a meeting of their foreign ministers in Moscow.
“We have reiterated our position and were united in stating that the attack was an act of aggression, which blatantly violated the principles of international law and the UN Charter,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said.
“We call on the US and its allies to respect Syria’s sovereignty and refrain from actions similar to what happened on April 7, and which have serious ramification not only for regional, but also global security,” he added.
Lavrov was referring to the Tomahawk missile barrage fired by the US Navy at a Syrian airbase in Homs province. Washington ordered the attack after accusing Damascus of launching a chemical weapons attack at a rebel-held town in Idlib province from that airbase. Russia condemned the move, saying the US hadn’t offered any proof to pin the alleged chemical weapons incident on the Syrian Army.
Meeting with his Iranian and Syrian counterparts, Javad Zarif and Walid Muallem, on Friday, Lavrov pledged to continue Russia’s support of Damascus in fighting terrorism and restoring peace in Syria.
He added that Moscow suspects that the Idlib incident was a provocative act aimed at derailing negotiations between the Syrian government and so-called moderate rebel groups on a political transition in the country. Lavrov said the perpetrators of the deadly release of toxins must be found.
“We insist on a thorough, objective and unbiased investigation of the circumstance of the use of chemical substances in Khan Shaykhun on April 4,” he said, adding that the investigating team must include inspectors chosen from nations from different parts of the world to ensure its objectivity.
Muallem pledged full cooperation of Damascus in carrying out such a probe.
The Russian minister added that Moscow doubts the objectivity of the current mechanisms for investigating alleged use of chemical weapons in Syria, considering the difference in how the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) handles reports by Damascus and by other parties.
“When accusations come against the Syrian government, the OPCW reacts in a matter of days and voices its concern. But they never go on the sites of incidents located in the regions controlled by the armed opposition, citing security issues,” he said. “We consider such analysis from a distance unacceptable.”
Lavrov also accused the US of reviving the Obama administration goal of toppling the Syrian government instead of seeking a political solution, citing the Tomahawk missile attack.
“Such acts of aggression are obviously meant to derail the peace process, which was endorsed in a unanimously adopted resolution of the UN Security Council and implies that the fate of Syria would be decided only by the Syrian people,” he said. “The action was obviously deviating from this basic concept and find new protects to aim for regime change.”
Lavrov said there is an increasing amount of evidence pointing to the conclusion that the chemical incident in Idlib province was staged to set up the Syrian government.
“Publications by professional experts, including some in the US and Britain, say there are too many inconsistencies and gaps in the version of events presented to justify the [US] aggression,” he said.
Zarif accused “certain countries” of hypocrisy, citing Iran’s history of suffering from chemical weapons attack by Saddam Hussein’s Iraq during the 1980s war. Declassified CIA files showed that the US was well aware that Saddam was using CWs against Iranians, but didn’t oppose it and even provided intelligence for such attacks.
MOSCOW – Moscow hopes for fruitful negotiations with the US state secretary on his visit to Moscow, the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement Tuesday.
“In connection with the beginning of today’s working visit to Russia by US Secretary of State R. Tillerson, we would like to note that we are counting on productive negotiations,” the ministry said.
“This is important not only for the prospects of further bilateral interaction, but also for the general atmosphere in the international arena,” the ministry underscored.
Moscow hopes that Washington will agree to an unbiased investigation of the recent chemical weapons incident in Syria’s Khan Shaykhun.
“We firmly expect that Washington will agree to an objective investigation with the OPCW involvement of the incident with chemical poisoning on April 4 of the residents of Syria’s Khan Shaykhun. The West groundlessly accused Syria’s authorities of it, although militants of Jabhat al-Nusra [banned in Russia], who… produced landmines stuffed with poisonous substances, operate in that area,” the statement said.
On April 4, a chemical weapons incident in Syria’s Idlib province claimed the lives of some 80 people and inflicted harm on an additional 200 civilians. The Syrian National Coalition of Revolutionary and Opposition Forces, as well as a number of Western states, accused the Syrian government troops of carrying out the attack, while Damascus refuted these allegations, with a Syrian army source telling Sputnik that the army did not possess chemical weapons.
The Russian Defense Ministry said on April 5 that the airstrike near Khan Shaykhun by the Syrian air force hit a terrorist warehouse that stored chemical weapons slated for delivery to Iraq, and called on the UN Security Council to launch a proper investigation into the incident.
Russian President Vladimir Putin said April 6 that groundless accusations in the chemical weapons incident in Syria’s Idlib were unacceptable before the investigation into the matter had been carried out.
However, the incident was used as pretext for a US missile strike against the Ash Sha’irat airbase carried out late on April 6. US President Donald Trump characterized the strike as a response to the alleged use of chemical weapons by the Syrian government troops while Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said it was a violation of the international law. Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei described the US missile strike against the Syrian airfield as a strategic mistake.
Moscow expects Tillerson to detail Washington’s plans in Libya.
“We expect to hear what the US plans to do in Libya, which has in fact become shattered as a result of NATO’s military intervention, like Iraq,” the ministry said.
Libya has been in a state of turmoil since 2011, when a civil war broke out in the country and long-standing leader Muammar Gaddafi was overthrown, and the country was contested by two rival governments: the internationally-recognized Council of Deputies based in Tobruk and the Tripoli-based General National Congress.
In March 2011, several NATO states, including France, launched a military intervention in Libya aimed at ending all attacks against the civilians and establishing a ceasefire. Then-President of France Nicolas Sarkozy played an important part in promoting the EU sanctions against Gaddafi and urging for the intervention.
Russia awaits from the United States coherent clarifications on the whole range of issues of strategic stability and security in the Euro-Atlantic region.
“We await coherent clarifications of the US course on the whole range of issues of ensuring strategic stability and security in the Euro-Atlantic,” the statement read.
Russia is concerned that the United States hints at the possibility of a military scenario regarding North Korea.
“We are very much concerned over what Washington has conceived about the DPRK, hinting at the possibility of a unilateral military scenario. It is important to understand how this correlates with collective obligations on the issue of the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula in the UN Security Council resolutions,” the ministry said.
On Wednesday, North Korea reportedly launched a ballistic missile from Sinpho, South Hamgyong province, in the direction of the Sea of Japan.
On Saturday, US officials announced that aircraft carrier strike group was sent to the Korean peninsula amid rising tensions. On Sunday, US National Security Adviser Lt. Gen. Herbert McMaster said that US President Donald Trump had ordered preparation of all possible options in order to protect the United States and its partners from North Korean threat.
Since the beginning of 2016, North Korea has carried out a number of missile launches and nuclear tests, prompting worldwide criticism. As a result, the UN Security Council tightened the sanctions regime for North Korea in an attempt to force Pyongyang to stop ballistic missile launches and nuclear tests, including imposing a measure intended to affect the country’s trade, export of natural resources, arms trade and the banking sector.
Moscow is preparing for constructive cooperation instead of confrontation, but stands ready for any developments.
“We are ready for any eventuality, however proceed from the favorability of such work that will reduce international tension rather than raising it,” the statement said.
It added that “we are preparing not for confrontation, but for constructive cooperation. We hope the US side wants the same.”
Moscow hopes the United States does not refuse to take part in international consultations on Afghanistan this Friday.
“We hope that the US will not refuse to participate in international consultations on Afghanistan, whose next round will be held in Moscow on April 14,” the ministry said.
State Department spokesman Mark Toner told Sputnik last month that the US “does not plan to participate” in the international talks involving 12 countries. Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said Moscow regretted Washington’s refusal to participate.
Afghanistan is in a state of political and social turmoil, with government forces fighting the continuing Taliban insurgency. The instability has persisted in the country since the 2001 US-led invasion to defeat the Taliban and al-Qaeda in the wake of the 9/11 attacks in the United States.
The lack of control and instability turned the country into home to the largest opium poppy production and distribution network in the world.
The Russian Foreign Ministry expressed hope that the United States would urge the Ukrainian government to adhere to the Minsk agreements.
“We especially hope that the United States will be able to neutralize the revanchist moods of the Ukrainian ‘party of war’ by using its influence on Kiev. Washington could also persuade the Kiev authorities to adhere strictly to their obligations under the Minsk agreements,” the statement read.
The Donbass conflict erupted in April 2014 as a local counter-reaction to the West-sponsored Maidan coup in Kiev that had toppled President Viktor Yanukovych in February. Residents of the Donetsk and Lugansk regions held independence referendums and proclaimed the People’s Republics of Donetsk and Lugansk. Kiev has since been conducting a military operation, encountering stiff local resistance.
In February 2015, Kiev forces and Donbass independence supporters signed a peace agreement in the Belarusian capital of Minsk. The deal stipulates a full ceasefire, weapons withdrawal from the line of contact in Donbass, as well as constitutional reforms that would give a special status to the Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics. Despite the agreement brokered by the Normandy Four states (Russia, France, Germany and Ukraine), the ceasefire regime is regularly violated, with both sides accusing each other of multiple breaches, undermining the terms of the accord.
At least 10 civilians have been killed in a Syrian village near the city of Raqqa, in an alleged air strike by the US-led coalition, Syrian media report.
The strike targeted a village to the west of Raqqa, SANA news agency reports. The attack caused casualties among the civilian population, SANA said, citing its local sources.
The alleged air strike and the same number of casualties was also reported by Syrian Tishreen newspaper, citing its sources.
Washington and its allies have been carrying out air strikes near Raqqa to provide support for the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces fighting Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL).
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is seeking a buffer zone against Syria, Iran and Hezbollah on the borders with Syria to be part of any future deal to end the Syrian crisis, Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported on Friday.
According to the Israeli newspaper, Netanyahu proposed this issue during meetings with American and other coalition countries.
Netanyahu wants to prevent Iran and Hezbollah from establishing a foothold and he intends to undermine future attacks against Israel, noting that he had suggested international forces to supervise his proposed buffer zone.
Last Friday, the Israeli Maariv revealed that Netanyahu sent messages to the international parties involved in the talks about Syria’s future.
These messages, according to the Egyptian news website Moheet, suggested Israel’s desire to decrease its reliance on military attacks on Syria in exchange for reaching a silent agreement that Iran and Hezbollah do not approach the Armistice Line in the occupied Golan Heights.
Maariv said that Israel would accept the return of the Syrian army to the border area connected with the occupied Palestinian territories based on a 1974 deal between the two.
Meanwhile, the Israeli newspaper reported fears from the Israeli political and military leadership from reaching a deal which kept Bashar Al-Assad as president and this would give Iran the chance to deploy forces loyal to it in areas close to the Golan Heights.
Over the past year, the Israeli military has carried out several airstrikes deep inside Syria, targeting Hezbollah’s personnel and weapons.
How quickly enemies can become friends. All you have to do is bomb people.
Q1: What happened?
Last night, and much to chagrin of people who thought Trump would not escalate matters in Syria, the US military launched 59 Tomahawk missiles into Syria, allegedly attempting to destroy a government airbase. They warned the Russian government before-hand, who will have passed on that warning to the Syrians, meaning the area was probably on alert, with any important equipment or personnel removed. The Pentagon have also stated that, at this time, there are no plans for any other strikes or any campaign in Syria.
Q2: Supposing the attack definitely happened as most are reporting – and that is a dangerous assumption to make these days – what have the results been?
At last count the number of Syrian casualties stood at 6 dead servicemen, and 9 dead civilians (including four children) and several more wounded, together with the loss of six aircraft. The airbase they attacked looks far from destroyed in footage from Russia 24 (see here). And chemical weapons? Well, they didn’t destroy any…and say they weren’t trying to do so (see our brief story on that contradiction here). So in terms of military targets, this strike has achieved very little.
The attack was pitifully inefficient, of the 50-70 missiles launched, only 23 struck anywhere near their targets. The other 30+ are currently unaccounted for. Tomahawk missiles cost between $500,000 and $1,500,000 dollar each, which means the US just spent between 25 and 105 MILLION dollars on dinging up a couple of aircraft hangars and murdering less than 20 people.
Q3: …then why do it?
There must be some political wins in this situation to justify the price tag, because the damage done to the “enemy” is practically zero. Indeed, when you take into account that the Pentagon informed the Russians, who will have informed the Syrians, and the reports of Syria evacuating personnel before the attack… the entire event appears somewhat theatrical. Meaning it was an entirely political act, possibly intended more for a domestic audience than anything else.
It had no bearing on the civil war at all, the airstrikes on rebel positions weren’t even halted for a day.
Q4: Was it legal?
Whether it was the product of an impotent emotional tantrum, or a cynical public relations gambit, there is no question the attack was completely illegal under international law. But the American press have never cared much about that. Given that America’s reputation was already in tatters, among those who consider such trifles important, this won’t do much damage. They will take a hit on that front, it probably won’t matter in the long-run.
The list of unpunished American international crimes is hugely long. This small addition barely qualifies.
Q5: cui bono?
Always the most important question.
Trump can definitely get some short-term political gains domestically here. Having “defied” the Russians and “stood-up to” Assad, Trump can now enjoy a period of respite from the “Trump is in Russia’s pocket” talk. Plus, the wider establishment – so fond of calling for “action on Syria” – will be forced to either agree with (and consequently legitimize) the administration, or criticise an attack on Syria and dial back their own calls for war.
What Trump gains in terms of favour within the deep-state and political establishment he will lose in terms of approval with his voting base. One of the biggest issues contributing to Trumps electoral victory was his non-interventionist stance on the ME. This may only be a superficial event, but the list of people approving of and/or celebrating it is enough to alienate a lot of Trump voters for good. But he doesn’t have to worry about that for the next four years.
One definite winner in all of this is Turkey, so long illegally picking at land along the Syrian border. They now have a precedent for a NATO ally taking unilateral action against the Syrian government on very flimsy evidence. They will take that and run with it. Israel, similarly, will see this as permission to be even more active in Syria. Both are key suppliers to the rebels, both are carving out chunks of Syria for themselves.
A danger does still lurk, of course. Whether Trump took this action to make a point, or was talked into it by generals and the like, the first official American attack on Syria has now taken place. Mission creep, intended from the outset or no, is an important thing to keep an eye on at this point.
JERUSALEM – The Israeli municipality of Jerusalem issued evacuation orders for three housing apartments in the Wadi Hilweh area of the occupied East Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan on Wednesday evening, due to fractures and cracks formed at the base of the houses, as Israeli authorities continued work on a tunnel network expected to be used to provide services to Israeli settlers.
According to the Wadi Hilweh Information Center, the houses belong to Hamed Oweida, Abed Oweida, and Suleiman Oweida.
Sixteen family members, including ten children, reside in the houses.
The Oweida family said that Israeli tunnel-digging under their homes has increased over the past three days, adding that loud noises from the digging would last for several hours, while the family could feel their houses shaking during the construction.
They said that the digging had caused severe damage of fractures and cracks in the walls and the bases of the houses.
The family added that they had called the Israeli police, who had then summoned a municipality team to inspect the houses. After taking photographs and inspecting the damage, an architect for the municipality decided to issue an emergency order for the families to evacuate and seal the houses, saying that it was dangerous to remain inside.
Suleiman Oweida had left his house several days ago after fractures in the walls had become more severe.
The information center said that Israeli authorities were creating a tunnel network for Israeli settlers directly under the Oweida family’s house.
Member of the Wadi Hilweh neighborhood committee Ahmad Qarrain said that the Israeli authorities began work under the neighborhood in 2007.
The residents at the time appealed to Israeli courts and were able to halt the construction under their homes for 14 months. However, Israeli courts later issued another order allowing the work to continue on the condition that the digging not endanger the lives of residents.
However, Qarrain said that the digging and work under the houses continued “without any consideration for the safety of residents,” and pointed out that the streets, walls, structures, and houses of the neighborhood have also been fractured and collapsed owing to the tunnel work.
A spokesperson for the Israeli Jerusalem municipality told Ma’an that the municipality had informed the residents that their properties were “unsound and dangerous” out of “concern for their own welfare,” while also being built “without regard for building codes or safety standards.”
The spokesperson added that “claims that the city is attempting to construct underneath this family’s structure are patently false.”